MAN – It might only be Week 3 of the high school football season but it’s a huge game for the Man Hillbillies on Friday night.
That’s when Man (1-1) is set to travel to Clear Fork to take on the Westside Renegades (1-1).
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Westside High School football field.
A victory by the Billies would put Man above .500 at 2-1. It would also give the Single-A Billies a second straight win over a Class AA opponent and would give Man some added points in the WVSSAC’s Computer Ratings with another victory over a 2A team.
Man, just 2-8 last season, has shown to be a much-improved team this season.
That was evident last week as the Billies went to Welch and throttled the Mount View Golden Knights, 44-0, a team they only beat by eight points a year ago.
Man has yet to play a fellow Class A team. The Billies had a respectable showing in Week 1, falling 40-20 to Triple-A county rival Logan.
Westside won 44-16 over a young Liberty Raleigh team in the opener, then lost the Golden Shovel to Wyoming County rival Wyoming East last week at New Richmond in a 35-6 defeat to the Warriors.
With beatable Class A teams left on Man’s schedule, plus possible toss-up games against a few others, it’s a pivotal game for the Billies on Friday night.
Another early season win could make improving Man a contender in the Class A playoff chase.
“I thought that we made some big improvements from the first game,” Man coach Harvey Arms said. “We were more aggressive, tougher and more physical. We executed a lot better and overall I thought that we were a whole lot better. We’re playing another Double-A team and beating another Double-A team would be great for us. They are a real good team. They have good size and they have good skilled people.”
Man got a fine performance last week from senior Cayce Mullins, who filled in for starting running back Braden Griffin, who was out with an injured shoulder. Mullins responded to the call as he scored three touchdowns – one on a 71-yard punt return, another on a 17-yard catch and a third on an 80-yard kickoff return.
The three scores by Mullins put Man up 20-0.
The rout was on.
Man quarterback John Thomas Keffer was 4-for-10 passing for 103 yards. Mikle Scott Rowe rushed nine times for 57 yards and scored a TD. Neil Mullins ran six times for 33 yards.
Arms said Griffin is questionable for Friday night’s game.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” Arms said. “He’s day-to-day.”
Arms said his running back-by-committee system did a fine job in Griffin’s absense.
“Cayce did a real good job,” Arms said. “Mikle Scott Rowe also played some as well as Neil Mullins. We are run-by-committee anyway and they all did a good job. We don’t give out game balls but if we did Cayce would have had it. He had the punt return that gave us the first score. Then right after that he returned the kickoff for a touchdown. That was the biggest play of the game as far as momentum for us.”
Westside has endured its own problems with injuries.
During a preseason game, the Renegades lost starting quarterback Justin Cogar, who is expected to be out four to six weeks. He attended last Friday night’s game and was on crutches. Cogar is the son of former Man football player Noel Cogar, who played for Coach Arms with the Man Junior High School team in the 1980s.
In last year’s 44-20 win by the Renegades over the Billies, Cogar rushed for nearly 200 yards.
Mike Mullens and Larry Cook Jr. have been Cogar’s replacements at quarterback.
Mullens had a solid opener, rushing for 290 yards and scoring six touchdowns against Liberty but against East he failed to find the end zone until late in the game on a 4-yard run. For the game, Mullens had 12 carries for 87 yards. He was 1-for-1 passing for 62 yards – a long completion to Corey Bowles. Bowles also had two interceptions on defense.
Cook was 3-for-5 passing for 54 yards against Wyoming East.
“They do have the misfortune that their quarterback was hurt,” Arms said of Cogar. “He’s going to be out for a while but they have a good replacement. They have a lot of talent and a lot of players on the team.”
Arms said the Billies must be able to contain Westside’s ground game.
“We have to be good up front and we have to pursue the ball well,” he said. “We have to play assignment football and we can’t be beat on the misdirection. They also run some option so we have to be sound there. We just have to play a total defensive game.”
Westside is coached by Larry Cook Sr.
The Renegades hadn’t lost to the rival Warriors in years.
“We’re just disappointed,” Cook told the Beckley Register Herald. “(The Golden Shovel) is something we’ve owned for five years. I’m not sure we were really hungry. Wyoming East was bigger and stronger than we were. Our coverage broke down a few times and they executed well. I have to say they were better than us.”
Wyoming East was led last week by junior quarterback Aaron Griffith, who completed 12-of-16 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns. He was replacing East’s injured QB Jacob Summe.
Man leads Westside 7-4 in the all-time series dating back to 2002 when WHS was formed after the consolidation of the former Oceana and Baileysville high schools.
The two teams have split 3-3 in the last six meetings.
Football Series (Man leads 7-4):
2012: Westside 44, Man 20
2011: Westside 33, Man 7
2010: Man 28, Westside 8
2009: Man 20, Westside 14
2008: Man 28, Westside 20
2007: Westside 10, Man 6
2006: Man 28, Westside 0
2005: Man 18, Westside 6
2004: Westside 22, Man 8
2003: Man 20, Westside 14
2002: Man 21, Westside 16